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BMC Med Genomics. 2018 Feb 13;11(Suppl 1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12920-018-0330-5.

Computational master-regulator search reveals mTOR and PI3K pathways responsible for low sensitivity of NCI-H292 and A427 lung cancer cell lines to cytotoxic action of p53 activator Nutlin-3.

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Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine, SBRAN, Novosibirsk, Russia.
2, Ltd, Novosibirsk, Russia.
geneXplain GmbH, D-38302, Wolfenbüttel, Germany.
Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine, SBRAN, Novosibirsk, Russia.
5, Ltd, Novosibirsk, Russia.
geneXplain GmbH, D-38302, Wolfenbüttel, Germany.



Small molecule Nutlin-3 reactivates p53 in cancer cells by interacting with the complex between p53 and its repressor Mdm-2 and causing an increase in cancer cell apoptosis. Therefore, Nutlin-3 has potent anticancer properties. Clinical and experimental studies of Nutlin-3 showed that some cancer cells may lose sensitivity to this compound. Here we analyze possible mechanisms for insensitivity of cancer cells to Nutlin-3.


We applied upstream analysis approach implemented in geneXplain platform ( ) using TRANSFAC® database of transcription factors and their binding sites in genome and using TRANSPATH® database of signal transduction network with associated software such as Match™ and Composite Module Analyst (CMA).


Using genome-wide gene expression profiling we compared several lung cancer cell lines and showed that expression programs executed in Nutlin-3 insensitive cell lines significantly differ from that of Nutlin-3 sensitive cell lines. Using artificial intelligence approach embed in CMA software, we identified a set of transcription factors cooperatively binding to the promoters of genes up-regulated in the Nutlin-3 insensitive cell lines. Graph analysis of signal transduction network upstream of these transcription factors allowed us to identify potential master-regulators responsible for maintaining such low sensitivity to Nutlin-3 with the most promising candidate mTOR, which acts in the context of activated PI3K pathway. These finding were validated experimentally using an array of chemical inhibitors.


We showed that the Nutlin-3 insensitive cell lines are actually highly sensitive to the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor NVP-BEZ235, while no responding to either PI3K -specific LY294002 nor Bcl-XL specific 2,3-DCPE compounds.


Lung cancer cell lines; Nutlin-3; Sensitivity to anticancer drugs; TRANSFAC; Transcription factors; p53

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